Posted by: Marie | September 8, 2009

(141) Trust in intimacy

Post #141
[Book study – Tuesday, June 2, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part One: Taking Stock
Effects: Recognizing the Damage

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


Where are you now? (Intimacy)

The building blocks of intimacy – giving and receiving, trusting and being trustworthy – are learned in childhood. If children are given consistent loving attention, they develop skills for establishing and maintaining nurturing relationships. Unfortunately, if you were abused, your natural trust was skewed by adults who misused your innocence. . . . You grew up with confusing messages about the relationship between sex and love, trust and betrayal.

Sand by Martin Chen

Sand by Martin Chen

Do you find it difficult to trust anyone? Yes.

Do you have close friends? I have one very close friend with whom I can share any experience and a handful of good friends/family members with whom I share good times.

Can you imagine a healthy relationship? I have no idea what that looks like.

Is it difficult for you to give or receive nurturing? To be affectionate? Nearly impossible.

Are you afraid of people? I don’t think so.

Do you feel alienated or lonely? I am comfortable in groups of strangers because the interaction is superficial. I can tolerate more intimate situations for short periods of time. I find relief in being alone – but there are many times I feel isolated and lonely and unable to take steps to remedy the situation.

Do you tend to get involved with people who are inappropriate or unavailable? That would be my entire history of dating.

Have you ever been involved with someone who reminds you of your abuser? Not that I’m aware of.

Do you often feel taken advantage of? In pretty much every relationship, once the novelty wears off – especially in romantic relationships. I feel like I do all the work and the other person/people just go along for the ride.

Do you find that your relationships just don’t work out? That is true 99% of the time – it is my perception that relationships are transient and expendable.

Do you have trouble making a commitment? Do you panic when people get too close? Not panic, I just assume the relationship is going to fail/end, so I don’t get too excited about it. However, if someone is the least bit “clingy”, I freak and run away.

Do you find you’re able to get close to friends, but can’t seem to make things work with a lover? I have never had a healthy relationship with a lover and very few healthy friendships.

Do you find yourself clinging to the people you care about? No – I keep my distance.

Do you repeatedly test people? Big time.

Do you expect people to leave you? Absolutely.

Can you say no? It depends – if I’m trying to get acceptance and love from someone, I have trouble protecting my own boundaries. However, if I’m keeping my distance (which I do with most people), it is easy to say “no”.

Quotes 050


  1. Marie,
    I am curious about the need of test people. In what ways you do it? Does that behavior ever cause you troubles or push out love ones?

    • Hi, Atabex –

      Ya’ know, I had to think about your question a while before I could answer it.

      My first therapist (Mark) told me that I test the people with whom I have relationships — and that I do it in a big way. I am sure I have heard it from other sources before that, as well, although I couldn’t tell you for sure which ones. So, I have carried the idea that it is true.

      However, now that you have asked me these questions, I am really struggling to define what that means exactly.

      The best I can come up with is that I have not found it effective to address conflict . . . somehow, it usually ends with me being blamed for everything and my angst not being resolved. So, I have found it “easier” to just suffer in silence (rather than risk losing the relationship) — until it gets so bad that I blow up and threaten to leave the relationship if “things don’t change”.

      I’m not sure if that is more about weak boundaries, lack of confidence/skills in handling conflict or “testing” someone to see if they will stick around even when I “demand” that my pain from the conflict be addressed.

      At any rate, whatever is behind it, the inevitable result is that my pain doesn’t get resolved and I leave the relationship. I have had very, very few relationships (platonic or romantic) that have survived beyond that point.

      It seems reasonable for my pain caused by the conflict to be addressed in relationships, but somehow it gets translated (by me? by the other party?) into an unreasonable request. Maybe my requests are unreasonable . . . I just don’t know how to determine what is reasonable or not. This is still one of my biggest challenges in relationships.

      Does that answer your questions?

      – Marie

  2. I’m interested by your response that you haven’t been involved with anyone who reminds you of your abuser.

    Do you have a specific pattern of men you tend to be drawn to? If so, what is it about them that attracts you? And do they always disappoint or hurt you in the same types of ways?

    • Hi, David –

      Wow . . more tough questions . . I mean, tough as in I’m struggling to come up with a solid answer. This is definitely a great way to get clear about my soul-searching and subsequent writing! Thank you!

      Anyway, I think I was young enough (4 yrs old) that my sexual abuser didn’t have much impact on whom I choose to date as an adult. However, my father was abusive physically and emotionally . . . and I think that has had a bigger impact on my choices.

      Having said all that . . .

      I tend to date emotionally unavailable and very selfish men. So often, I have been told by the men I date that they don’t want to hear about my personal drama . . . but my typical boyfriend expects me to cook, and clean and do his laundry . . . and, let’s not forget . . . stay skinny, always smell good, keep my legs shaved and always be excited about letting him dump his sperm in me . . . and, if I want to have an orgasm during the process, I better know how to get to that point quickly because he is too tired to give me more than three minutes of attention . . . (enough said?)

      So, after about 2-3 months, I usually end up feeling very “used” . . . and I ask for things to change, they don’t and I am told I am asking for too much, so I leave (see my response to Atabex’s comment). This pattern is so predicable that I have just come to expect it – and have stopped dating because I have no hope it could be better, so it is not worth the effort.

      Interestingly, I married the one guy who didn’t want sex from me. I thought he just had a low sex drive, but it turned out he was not attracted to me (which he didn’t tell me until six weeks after the wedding). I personally think he was/is gay, or at least bi-sexual . . . there were too many signs pointing that way. However, either way, we had many, many issues beyond just the sex thing – him telling me he wasn’t attracted to me and didn’t want to touch me was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      I have faired better with dating women, but my attraction to women is more emotional than physical . . . I’m not sure if I’m straight, gay or bi . . . but, I’m getting off on another tangent.

      So, you asked what attracts me to those types of men . . . I don’t know. I suspect because I’m still trying to heal my relationship with my dad . . . (because that is how my dad behaved towards me). I am still trying to figure out what type of man or woman I would want to date.

      Does that even come close to answering your questions?

      – Marie

  3. Yeah, kind of. :-) I’m not surprised you end up feeling used; anyone would. But based on the way you describe these guys, they really kind of sound like narcissistic assholes from hell, so I have to wonder what draws you to them in the first place. Good looks? Superficial charm? Or something more? Are you drawn to some false hope of something real that you’re looking for? And if so, what is the real thing you keep being fooled into thinking you see in these abusive men?

    I think one drawback of sexual healing books is that when they ask whether you get involved with people who remind you of your abuser, they don’t make it clear enough that a kid can have lots and lots of abusers whom he or she seeks to recreate in relationships … the automatic assumption the reader of the book makes is that the book is talking about the primary sexual abuser.

    Forex, one pattern I used to recreate in relationships was a type of abandonment inflicted upon me by the only childhood friend I ever had. That relationship was highly emotionally abusive, but the abuse didn’t come from an adult.

    • Hey, David –

      Wow . . great questions! I agree with you about the sexual healing books . . . but, they are trying to write to a very diverse audience . . I think, as a reader, I have to take some responsibility for adapting it to my situation.

      It is amazing that you have figured out the huge impact your childhood friend had on you!

      So, about my attraction to assholes . . .

      I think it was not so much that I was attracted to that type of guy . . but, rather, those were the only guys who would pay attention to me. Since I was so desperate for male attention/affection/approval, I took whatever I could get.

      So that leads me to the question . . . was my selection limited because quality guys were not interested in me or because I wasn’t interested in them?

      In my younger days (75 pounds and 15+ years ago), I had plenty of attention from all types of guys . . . I mean, I have a pretty face and wild red hair, I used to have a nice body, and I am usually fun and outgoing and adventurous . . . so, I got plenty of attention from all around.

      However, the quality guys never stuck around. I don’t think there was an issue with physical attractiveness . . . however, I was very desperate in my heart and mind and that came across in my behavior. I was very insecure about everything except what happened in the bedroom — I was willing to do just about anything there and I got a reputation as being really “wild”.

      So, I’m sure that quality guys ran from the desperation and the assholes took advantage of my promiscuity.

      Now, I’m no longer desperate enough to deal with assholes, but I haven’t figured out how to attract quality guys (or gals), either. A large part of that is because I still don’t feel good about who I am — I can’t imagine what a quality guy/gal would see in me that would cause him/her to want to stick around. I’m working on shifting that, but I have a long way to go.

      Thanks for the follow-up questions . . . you have helped me connect a few more dots in all of this!

      – Marie

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